Howard County extends term of grand jury in Tripp case Prosecutor says he needs more time to present evidence from probe

August 21, 1998|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

The prosecutor investigating allegations that Columbia resident Linda R. Tripp illegally taped conversations with Monica Lewinsky said yesterday that he needs more time to present evidence to the Howard County grand jury hearing the case.

"We're not finished," State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said outside the Howard County Circuit courthouse in Ellicott City, after the grand jury had met again. "We've got a job to do and I'm going to do it. I was handed this investigation. I didn't ask for it."

Montanarelli, who first presented evidence to the jurors Aug. 6, did not divulge any details of his case. He addressed reporters after Howard County State's Attorney Marna McLendon announced that the term of the grand jury, scheduled to adjourn Sept. 17, will be extended indefinitely.

The grand jurors will hear only the Tripp case. They've been hearing that case as well as the criminal cases McLendon's office investigates, which will be heard by another panel.

An attorney representing Tripp, Joseph Murtha, said he was "disappointed" that Montanarelli asked for an extension, calling the investigation politically motivated.

"We believe it would be appropriate just to close the investigation and allow Linda to get on with her life," Murtha said. "Linda was a very credible witness in an investigation that has been brought to light for the people of the United States."

Murtha said another attorney representing Tripp is seeking Pentagon approval for her to return to her office there as early as Monday. She has been working at home the past seven months, since the Lewinsky scandal broke, and continues to be paid her $88,000 yearly salary.

Montanarelli is investigating whether Tripp taped phone conversations from her home without Lewinsky's knowledge. Tripp informed independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr that Lewinsky had described to her a sexual relationship with President Clinton, prompting the months-long inquiry that led to Clinton's admitting this week he had had an improper relationship with the former White House intern.

Tripp's current attorneys have not acknowledged that she taped calls. It's illegal in Maryland to record conversations without the other person's consent. The crime is a felony, punishable by up to five years in jail and a fine of $10,000, or both.

Pub Date: 8/21/98

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